SCD Cupcakes

I recently made SCD cupcakes and since they can be tricky, thought I’d share them with you.

I used the same SCD cake recipe I used here, but omitted the lemon flavoring since I was out of it.

And I used not only the same SCD buttercream frosting recipe that I had used for the SCD birthday cake, but the actual batch of SCD buttercream that I had made for that cake.

Having the extra stored in small containers in the freezer made creating the cupcakes a breeze. The trick is to thaw the frosting, then re-whip it before adding it to the piping bag.

Instead of creating frosting-based flowers, which would not have held up well without continual refrigeration, I piped a basic twirl, then decorated the cupcakes with fresh flowers.

How have you decorated your SCD confections? Leave me a comment. I’d love to hear.


SCD Birthday Party!

If you’ve ever tried to decorate an SCD birthday cake, then you know how hard it can be.

After years of subpar birthday cakes, I finally figured out how to decorate an SCD cake for my daughter’s 8th birthday. Kinda.

Originally, I had plans for an American-Girl-themed birthday party, but because I couldn’t find American Girl cake toppers or embellishments — and making them out of honey-based frosting wasn’t an option — the theme morphed into a tea party with dolls — and people — as guests. Then we decorated with balloons, hearts, and a few American Girl decorations. Before digging into the cake and frozen yogurt, we did lots of American Girl crafts, and drank tea like proper ladies.

The menu originally started out grander as well, but in the end here’s what we ended up with:

  • SCD Lemon Cake with SCD Buttercream Frosting (recipe below)
  • Homemade SCD Frozen Strawberry Yogurt
  • Fresh fruit: star fruit, strawberries, and blueberries
  • SCD Punch (recipe below)
  • Hot Tea

For the SCD Barbie birthday cake, I used the Wilton Classic Wonder Mold pan, and a La Dee Da doll. Because a double recipe of the cake was not enough to fill the pan completely, I needed a doll shorter than the traditional Barbie. (You could also use only the torso of a doll, or one of the doll picks designed specifically for decorating, but none of those seemed quite the right size or were attractive enough.)

Please excuse the quality of the cake. Without traditional decorator’s icing, or fondant, decorating with SCD frosting was almost like starting over. And please excuse the pictures too. I need better lighting, probably some photography lessons, and definitely a new kitchen ☺.

Here’s the SCD Lemon Birthday Cake recipe. Please note that its texture is heavy, like pound cake.

SCD Lemon Birthday Cake
4 eggs, separated
½ cup canola oil (or coconut oil)
1 cup honey
1 Tbs. vanilla
1 Tbs. lemon juice (fresh squeezed)
1 Tbs. lemon flavor (organic, SCD)
5 cups almond flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Whisk the egg yolks until pale.
3. Add into the egg yolks, the canola oil, the honey, the vanilla, lemon juice, and lemon flavor.
4. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff.
5. Fold egg whites into batter mixture.
6. In an additional bowl, add almond flour, salt and baking soda. Stir with a fork or dry whisk until well combined.
7. Fold the almond flour mixture into the batter gently.
8. Pour into a well-greased and floured (coconut oil and fine almond flour) cake pan.

9. The baking time is dependent upon the cake pan. The Wonder Mold pan took about an hour. However, the cake’s outside was much darker than a traditional flour cake would be. My suggestion is to underestimate the time you think your cake will need, then check it every 10-15 minutes with a toothpick — or skewer for the tall 3-D pans — until done.

10. Let the cake cool in the pan for at least 10 minutes, then turn out onto a rack to cool completely before frosting it.

After I decorated the cake, I gave it more height and volume by placing it on a cake stand and surrounding the bottom of the stand with tulle, onto which I placed some heart decorations. You could also use a tulle cake skirt, which would be extra cute.

Here’s the SCD Buttercream Frosting recipe (adapted from this great recipe/tutorial at I highly suggest reading or watching a good tutorial before trying this for the first time. It came out great, but was a bit tricky. If I hadn’t known the mixture would turn into a soupy mess before it was done, I would have tossed it out as a failure.

SCD Buttercream Frosting
¾ cup honey
2 whole eggs
2 egg yolks
Pinch of salt
1 lb. unsalted SCD butter
2-3 tsp. SCD vanilla extract
2-3 tsp. SCD lemon oil/flavoring (optional)

Important: All ingredients should be room temperature.

And please note: SCD butter should be without “natural flavorings.” Sometimes I can only find salted butter without flavorings. Use less salt in your “pinch” if using salted butter.

1. Add honey to saucepan and attach candy thermometer without allowing it to rest on the bottom of the pan. Set the heat to medium.

2. While the honey heats up to the softball stage — 240 degrees Fahrenheit — add the eggs and egg yolks to a large bowl (not to the honey), along with the pinch of salt.
3. Using a stand mixer if possible, whip the eggs until almost gelatinous. (This takes longer than you might think.)
4. When the honey reaches 240 degrees, remove the thermometer and very slowly pour the hot honey down the side of the mixer bowl as the eggs are beaten. (Obviously, a stand mixer is ideal.) Do not pour the honey directly onto the eggs, but down the side.
5. Continue to beat the egg and honey mixture until it is the consistency of marshmallow, and it has cooled down.
6. Add the very softened butter slowly, a chunk at a time, about 2-3 tablespoons. Initially the frosting will look runny. Keep going. It will attain proper shape when the last half-cup is added.
7. Add the vanilla, and lemon flavor if using. Mix gently.
8. Taste it to see if it needs more salt or vanilla. If so, add it. If not, you’re done.

Now you have SCD frosting. You can use it right away. However, if you want to pipe it, you may need to chill it. This is a tricky area that you’ll need to figure out based on the temperature inside your kitchen. If the frosting is too cold, you can’t pipe it at all. If it’s too soft, it won’t hold shape. Even smoothing it was a bit of a challenge, as you can see from the imperfect skirt on the doll cake.

The second issue is that the frosting was rich and not only tasted very strongly of butter, but it was also the color of butter. And only the color of butter. There seemed to be nothing I could do about that. I tried to change the color by adding some homemade blackberry juice concentrate, but that didn’t work, and I didn’t have time to come up with any other natural colorings to try. Hence the yellow dress. And hence the odd heart picks added to the dress as decoration to liven it up.

The good news is that the frosting freezes well, so you can keep some in stock for last-minute birthday party invitations. On top of an SCD cupcake — and with a decorative “pick” — they make great transportable mini SCD birthday cakes.

SCD Punch
1 large can (46 oz) not-from-concentrate pineapple juice
1 quart. not-from-concentrate orange juice
1 liter carbonated water
6-12 oz frozen fruit instead of ice (I used pineapples chunks and strawberries.)

Chill all liquids until 15 minutes before the party. Pour into punch bowl and add frozen fruit.

This punch got rave reviews from the adults and kids.

After years of not having proper birthday parties for my daughter, I wanted this one to be one she would remember. So, I served the punch in champagne flutes with decorative straws, and the selection of teas in china my grandparents brought from Sweden when they immigrated in 1950. Definitely over the top. But after years of attending birthday parties where she couldn’t eat the food, I wanted this one to be special.

I’d love to hear about your SCD birthday cake successes!


SCD Halloween Finger Cookies

It’s that scary time of year again when SCD parents search desperately for alternatives to mainstream Halloween treats.

Here’s one option that’s safe for lunch boxes, Halloween parties, and if made in tiny versions and well packed, even for trick-or-treat bags.

SCD Gingerbread Witches’ Fingers

6 cups almond flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 cup honey
¼ cup SCD yogurt
1 egg
2 Tbs. ground cinnamon
1 Tbs. ground ginger
1 Tbs. ground cloves

Preheat oven to 350 Fahrenheit.

Add baking soda to almond flour. (It’s best if you sift them together, but I’m usually too lazy for that, and just combine with a whisk until all of the lumps are out.)

Whisk honey, yogurt, egg, and spices together, adjusting spices to your taste.

Add almond flour mixture to liquid/spice mixture, either by hand or in a stand mixer. (I prefer the Kitchen Aid.)

If the dough is too sticky, add more almond flour a little at a time. This dough will never be equivalent to a gluten-based dough, but it does need to be dry enough to handle — but sticky enough to stay together.

You can refrigerate the dough at this point to make it easier to handle if you’d like. (This dough also freezes well.)

When ready to make the finger cookies, roll the dough into finger-like shapes, adding knuckles, warts, etc. Press an almond into the “finger’s” tip for the fingernail, and use a toothpick or knife to score wrinkles into the skin.

Place on a parchment lined cookie tray and bake for approximately 15 minutes. Be careful. Because the dough is dark, it burns easily. The baking time will also depend on how thick the cookies are, so err on the side of caution.

Serve to little ghosts and goblins.


Why I Love My Vita-Mix — SCD Chili Powder

This super simple — and frugal — recipe is easy to adapt to you (or your kid’s) tastes.

You need only one ingredient: Dried chili peppers. And a heavy-duty blender or food processor.

That’s it. Of course you can make more complicated versions, like Alton Brown’s Chili Powder. But for those on the SCD, simpler is usually better.

The instructions are easy too:

Remove the stems (and seeds if you prefer less heat or can’t tolerate them) from the dried peppers of your choosing. (Make sure to use gloves for this part.) I used New Mexico chilis in these pictures.

Then place them into the Vita-Mix. Turn it on low, then quickly to high. Use the tamper to grind the peppers to the consistency you like. When finished, let the powder settle before you open the container.

I found that the peppers we grow and dry our selves are dryer than those I purchase. So, if you’re using the store-bought ones, be aware that the little bit of moisture they contain affects the texture of the chili powder. When I use purchased peppers, I store the powder in the refrigerator.



25 SCD Snacks

With kids home from school for the summer, finding SCD snacks can be hard. And if your SCD kid is prone to losing weight, as mine is, it’s especially important to have snacks on hand.

I’ve compiled a list of ones we like, including some calorie-dense snacks as well as some lighter fare. Assume that the items are homemade unless specifically stated otherwise.

1. Dried fruit and nut butter
2. Fresh fruit and nut butter
3. Vegetables and guacamole
4. SCD chips and guacamole
5. Cheese sticks
6. SCD cookies (like Ginger Bear Biscuits, Healing Foods, page 207; or Brownies, Healing Foods, page 196; or Monster Cookies, Breaking the Vicious Cycle, page 132)
7. Coconut date balls (Healing Foods, page 53)
8. Gelatin made with SCD juice
9. Popsicles made with SCD juice, yogurt, and/or fruit
10. Almond butter packs
11. Boiled eggs and SCD mayonnaise
12. SCD waffle sticks (or shapes cut out with cookie cutters) and honey and/or nut butter
13. SCD muffins
14. SCD cupcakes
15. SCD Caramel Toffees (although these must be kept refrigerated) (Healing Foods, page 54)
16. Skewers (or cute Bento toothpicks) of ham or turkey, and cheese, and SCD pickles or olives
17. SCD fruit leather
18. SCD ice cream
19. SCD slushies (blended frozen fruit, juice, and ice if needed)
20. SCD smoothies (blended fruit, yogurt, juice or coconut milk, and nuts)
21. Sardines served with SCD cheese crackers
22. Farmer’s cheese (described in Breaking the Vicious Cycle) and honey
23. SCD Pretzels
24. SCD Carrot cake (Healing Foods, page 204; or Breaking the Vicious Cycle, page 127)
25. Crispy eggplant chips with marinara dipping sauce

Hope you’re having a great summer and that this is helpful. If you have favorite SCD snacks I’d love to hear about them below.


SCD Meal Plan

Here’s another meal plan to get your month started. Hope it helps. And I’d love to hear about your meal plan successes in the comments below.


Monday: SCD pancakes, homemade strawberry syrup, homemade SCD sausage
Tuesday: SCD yogurt, toasted nuts and fruit
Wednesday: SCD carrot pancakes with honey, homemade SCD sausage
Thursday: Eggs, bacon, cooked apples
Friday: SCD pumpkin pie

Lunches (Packed for School)

Monday: Applegate “octopus” hotdog, SCD carrot cake, fruit, peas
Tuesday: SCD salmon patties, fruit, SCD banana muffins
Wednesday: SCD Waffle Sticks, homemade SCD sausage, homemade strawberry syrup
Thursday: Applegate hotdog, homemade butternut squash fries, fruit, SCD cupcake
Friday: SCD pizza (w/provolone and meat), fruit, SCD carrot cake


Monday: SCD eggplant parmesan, roasted Brussels sprouts
Tuesday: SCD vegetarian chili (with beef, cheese, etc. available to add in)
Wednesday: Huevos rancheros (with beef available), salad, fresh guacamole, homemade SCD salsa, etc.
Thursday: Broiled salmon, baby carrots glazed in SCD orange juice, SCD garlic toast
Friday: SCD Crockpot chicken with onions, mushrooms and carrots, homemade applesauce


Fruit smoothies
Shrek juice (green smoothie)
Almond butter packs
SCD Trail Mix
Boiled eggs (in Bento shapes)
SCD gelatin
SCD banana, mango ice cream
SCD nut brittle
SCD carrot cake
Veggies & homemade SCD green goddess dip
Sardines & SCD crackers
Homemade SCD banana chips
SCD yogurt
SCD eggplant chips


No-fall SCD Bread

If you’ve ever made SCD bread, you know how fickle it can be. During cooking, it collapses creating an ugly slump in the middle of the loaf, and when you try to eat it, it crumbles. But, with a little extra attention in the end, you can keep it from falling apart so easily. The trick is to slow down the cooling process.

Here’s the recipe, adapted from Keri’s French Toast Bread at

2 ½ cups almond flour (blanched)
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 cup homemade SCD yogurt
3 eggs

1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
2. Whisk eggs by hand or mixer until blended. (This is different from the original recipe, indicated that eggs should be separated and the whites beaten until stiff. Do not separate the eggs.)
3. Add the yogurt to the eggs and stir until eggs are distributed.
4. In a separate bowl, add the baking soda, salt and almond flour together. Sift if necessary.
5. Add the apple cider vinegar to the egg mixture and stir. You should see bubbles form.
6. Dump the dry mix (baking soda, salt, almond flour) into the egg+yogurt mix and stir gently until the batter is completely moistened. Don’t overmix.
7. Pour into a loaf pan, preferably one lined with parchment paper.
8. Cook 45-55 minutes, depending on the size of the pan, until a toothpick in the center comes out clean.
9. Turn the oven off, but leave the pan in place.
10. Prop the oven door open a few inches to let some of the heat escape.
11. Keep the bread in the oven for 15-20 minutes (or longer) so that it cools slowly. This will help prevent the saggy middle that often plagues SCD bread. Keep an eye on it to make sure it doesn’t burn.

Another trick I use is to multiply the recipe by 1.5 and make one slightly larger loaf — lined with parchment — in a large toaster oven. This small size of the oven makes it easy to prop the door, and the oven cools off slowly enough to prevent drooping, but quickly enough to prevent burning.

After I remove the bread from the oven, I let it cool completely, in the pan before lifting it out via the parchment paper, placing it on a cutting board and slicing it. Then I place each of the slices on a lined cookie sheet and freeze them until we need them. That maintains their shape, and prevents the bread from spoiling before we use it.

When we’re ready to eat it, I agree with Keri that it’s best toasted, although we usually do that in a pan with a little butter, or in the toaster oven, but again with a little butter. The fat seems to help it stick together better.

The slow-cooling trick also works with other SCD baked treats, like these muffins.

Happy Eating!


SCD Meal Planning for a New Year

Happy New Year!

Not only is it the beginning of a new week, it’s the beginning of a new year, the time when many of us vow to get into shape, eat better, stick to a schedule, . . . . You know the drill.

For the most part, I’m one of those people the FlyLady calls “born organized.” Yet, in the midst of daily life, I struggle to make sure my family eats healthfully. Given our diverse dietary needs that can be a real challenge. Like everyone else, we still struggle, but the easiest way I’ve found to facilitate healthy eating (and maintain a budget) is to make a plan and stick to it.

For instance, in November (2011) I participated in NaNoWriMo for the second time. I knew I would be devoting most of my time to writing, so in October I wrangled some help from my husband and older daughter. First, I planned out all of the meals we would need for the month, then we did some communal cooking, and finally, I packed 43 SCD meals for my younger daughter, and a month’s worth of main dishes for the family, into the freezer. Voila! Not exactly as easy as pie, but easier than cooking — and cleaning up — everyday.

So, with the new year upon us, I am revising my menu planning (and freezer cooking), all while sticking to the grocery budget, and finding food that everyone will eat.

I know how hard menu planning — especially with strict diets — can be, so I’m posting my preliminary meal plan for this week, including a brief entry for a small SCD birthday gathering. To make things easy, I’ll modify the week’s plan to fit the month.

Please note that I’ve left out some of the details about adapting the recipes for my older, vegetarian daughter, and that Applegate products are not technically SCD legal.

I hope this gives you some ideas, especially for SCD lunches and SCD birthday treats. And I’d love to hear your meal-planning goals for the new year in the comments below.

Monday: SCD pumpkin custard, smoothie
Tuesday: Egg, veggie, & meat mini-frittata
Wednesday: SCD pancakes with homemade citron syrup
Thursday: Homemade SCD yogurt & grain-free “granola”
Friday: Poached eggs, bacon, SCD toast

Lunches (Packed for School)
Monday: Applegate “octopus” hotdog, SCD gingerbread cookies, fresh fruit: grapefruit, blackberries, star fruit
Tuesday: SCD salmon salad in zucchini wraps (or SCD salmon patties), fruit, SCD carrot cake
Wednesday: SCD Waffle Sticks, homemade SCD sausage, pumpkin custard
Thursday: Applegate Hotdog, cheese stick or BabyBel, fresh veggies and dip
Friday: Mini-SCD pizzas (w/provolone and meat), salad/veggies, SCD cookie

Monday: Split Pea Soup (w/ crumbled bacon), fresh grated Parmesan
Tuesday: Chicken, roasted carrots & onions
Wednesday: Acorn squash (w/pork or homemade SCD sausage)
Thursday: Black bean soup (w/ground beef); homemade SCD yogurt, avocado, cheese
Friday: SCD salmon patties, butternut squash fries, homemade applesauce, salad

SCD carrot pancakes
Almond butter packs
SCD Trail Mix
Boiled eggs (in Bento shapes)
SCD cookies
SCD crackers
SCD carrot cake
Veggies & homemade SCD green goddess dip
Sardines & SCD crackers
Applegate turkey & cheese roll ups
SCD pumpkin custard
Homemade SCD apple chips

SCD Birthday Treats
SCD vanilla cupcakes (w/SCD dripped cream yogurt & honey “icing”), fresh fruit decorations: star fruit, “candied” blueberries
SCD gelatin shapes (made with juice)


Cheater Bento

So technically it’s not cheating, but here’s an easy and inexpensive way to start Bento-ing for your kids without laying out big bucks, or driving to one of the large metropoleis if, like me, you live in a region lacking in Japanese food supplies. Of course you can simply order online too. Which I did. But that’s another post.

In the baby/toddler products aisle of stores like Meijer, Wal-Mart, etc., you may stumble across this cute and very useful snack box by Sassy, called the On-the-Go Feeding Set. I found mine locally for $5.99 and have been packing it full for school lunches for my younger daughter. I know it looks tiny, but following the Bento model can be loaded with calories. And since I also pack a similar container for the afternoon snack, I’m not worried that she’s eating too few calories. Honestly, since I’ve started doing this, I think she’s eating more calories. Certainly, she’s bringing home fewer mangled leftovers.

It isn’t super tight and leaks a little, but I take that into account when filling it. And there isn’t as much of a learning curve to packing it as I’ve found there is with a traditional Bento box.

If you want to check out the different styles of easily accessible Bento boxes for kids and don’t want to get your hands dirty, check out where Melissa shows pictures of the different types, and evaluates them by size, washability, etc. She even has a Sassy Box category, where you can see the Sassy lunches she’s created.

And how about you? If you’ve used one for your kids, especially for those on specialty or medical diets, I’d love to hear how it’s working.


Low-carb SCD Bento, or Where to Score a Phenomenal Menu Planner

ume ladybug bento
Photo used under Creative Commons from gamene

Without whining about all of the details, I’ll tell you that I spent 17 hours this past weekend cooking. Am I crazy? Probably. But when my husband mistakenly said earlier this weekend that I was “enthusiastic” about my daughter’s diet, I had to correct him. “I’m not enthusiastic; I’m desperate.”

Those of you who have kids with behavioral and/or digestive issues know that the reward of the hard work of a successful dietary endeavor is no comparison to having a child who’s out of control, unable to attend class, or sit in a car seat, or worse yet losing weight due to malabsorption.

My daughter has been on the SCD for three years and for the first time, getting her to stay on the diet is becoming problematic now that she is in kindergarten. My heart goes out to her. I know that she wants be like other kids, but within the past few weeks she’s started getting snacks from her table mates at school, sneaking her sister’s food at home, and most embarrassingly, stealing a forbidden candy from a store while my husband was distracted paying the bill. Ouch! So much for my perfect parenting award.

I’m hoping to redeem myself, and make her life a little easier, by upping my game when it comes to the lunches and snacks she takes to school. She can be picky when it comes to food, especially in her lunch—while her friends are watching—and that in combination with the restrictions of easily transportable, ready-to-eat SCD food, led me to contemplate Bento.

Never heard of Bento? Me neither until recently. But what kid wouldn’t love supremely cute lunch boxes filled with scenes of forest animals, or comic characters—not just lunch, but art? Granted, traditional Bento foods are not SCD, gluten-free, or even low-carb, but I’m on a mission and I won’t let that stop me.

I’ve found a phenomenal Bento site, chock full of resources, including recipes, pictures (definitely the most helpful), and equally as important for thinking ahead—and for getting one’s family to stick to the plan—is a meal planner. I have been using meal planners of one sort or another for years, but this is the Holy Grail of (on paper) meal planners.

It’s a full week, with breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks for each day, along with extra space for notes and a shopping list, but the best part is the Bento lunch section. It is organized graphically, which means that the lunch section looks somewhat like a mini Bento box and each section is proportional to how much of that type of food: protein, carbs, vegetables, fruit/snacks, you should include in your lunch. Obviously, for the SCD Bento, one has to alter it a bit.

If you would prefer more Americanized Bento lunches for kids, check out bentolunch. The Bento photos in the masthead alone are worth the visit, but you’ll want to make sure to check out the What’s For Lunch weekly post where commenters leave pics of their cute Bento lunches.

If you have a cute SCD, gluten-free, or low-carb lunch site or picture to share, I’d love to hear about it in the comments.


SCD Halloween

Holidays, for SCDers, can be a challenge.

Since Halloween is coming up, I’m brainstorming some workable SCD solutions so I don’t freak out at the last minute.

Please remember, not all of these foods will work for everyone, especially if you are new to the diet. And the small bits of dried fruit and nuts may not be suitable for especially young ones.

I’ve broken this down into two lists, the first for trick-or-treating and the second for parties, festivals, etc.

A few ideas for trick-or-treating:
Add a little extra pizzazz by using themed treat bags.

1. Non-food items such as little puzzles, mini-sticker books, individual-sized Play-doh (note: these contain wheat) etc. (Personally, I’m not a fan of small plastic toys.)
2. Boxed raisins without sugar.
3. Dried fruits without sugar: pineapple, apricots, etc.
4. Date-nut balls, baked or raw, if properly packaged (from Breaking the Vicious Cycle).
5. Clementine pumpkins (You can make really cute jack-o-lanterns by pressing fruit leather onto clementines as seen on page 78 of the print edition of October’s Family Fun magazine.)
6. Mini-pumpkins: not edible, but still fun.
7. Honey lollipops (from Breaking the Vicious Cycle; these are fickle and melt easily. And take it from me, if you tackle these, make sure your counters are level!)
8. Honey marzipan animals—or Halloween ghouls (Ditto the note above. Keep refrigerated as long as possible.)
9. Homemade nut brittle.
10. Individually packaged almond butters. Please note that I have not confirmed that these are SCD compliant, but we have used them successfully.
11. Toasted pumpkin seeds.
12. Homemade trail mix.
13. Homemade Tricolor Chips (from Recipes for the Specific Carbohydrate Diet) or Carrot Curls (from Breaking the Vicious Cycle).

14. Individual mini-sized LaraBars. (I’ve found these in boxes of 12 at Whole Foods, and Target in the vitamin section, for about $10. Definitely not frugal, but as one of the few packaged, easily transportable foods, they’re worth it.)

For other Halloween functions such as parties, festivals, pumpkin patch field trips, etc., where the treats aren’t as likely to be crushed during transportation:

1. Homemade SCD cookies in Halloween shapes, like these gingerbread skeletons. (Or the gingerbread recipe from Recipes for the Specific Carbohydrate Diet.)
2. Homemade SCD meringue cookies (I’m going to try these in scary shapes.)
3. Homemade SCD brownies (from Breaking the Vicious Cycle; replace peanut butter with almond butter).
4. Homemade SCD pumpkin mini-muffins (Don’t forget the specialty liners, like these spider web cupcake wrappers and toppers. Here are some free printable cupcake picks to get you started.)
5. Glazed apple slices (peeled apple cooked in honey, cinnamon, a little butter, and nuts).
6. Pumpkin pie (I usually make a crustless version and bake it in individual ramekins.)
7. Mummy meatloaf (using SCD legal cheese instead of American).

Is this a rare time where we offer non-SCD treats to our little ghosties? That’s a personal decision based on your own child’s health, but on special occasions, I have served these prepared fruit leathers with success.

As for me, I’m on the search for a honey-based candy apple recipe. If you have one, let me know.

What about you? I’d love to hear what SCD Halloween treats you give your little goblins.


Price per Meal Calculators

Hmmm. Another dilemma, another solution.

My husband’s chemistry lab is wrapping up for the semester and he wanted to bring a meal they could all share. Since like many of you, we’re on a budget, we finally came up with a nutritious solution that fit the dietary requirements of all of the students as well as the ease-of-preparation stipulation that this meal will be cooked on-site in a crockpot.

After we found a recipe that would work, I thought “Hmm, wouldn’t it be nice to find a website that calculated cost per meal or cost per serving of recipes for you.”

This is what I found: A USDA recipe finder database originally designed for nutrition educators serving families who receive food assistance. Although it has its limitations, it’s searchability appeals to me. For instance, you can search by ingredients, recipe name, nutrition education goal, menu category, intended audience, available cooking equipment and price per meal or per serving. Not too shabby!

On the recipe pages themselves, I noted a few more perks: You can read the recipe in Spanish, print it in multiple sizes, view the nutrition facts, and even add the ingredients to a shopping list. Yes, I know; these functions are also available on mainstream menu sites, such as my favorite, allrecipes, which admittedly has thousands more recipes available. But they don’t have price per serving options or easily searchable health options.

Just to try it out, I selected two criteria: Main Dish recipes, and chose $1.00 for the Cost Less Than $X per Serving category. The database returned 137 recipes. A quick glance told me that their idea of ‘main dish’ was a little broad, but it’s a good starting point to brainstorm ideas for inexpensive meals.

Now, I can’t vouch for how tasty the recipes are, but since I always tweak recipes anyway, I don’t see that as a major hindrance. Check it out and let me know what recipes worked for you.

By the way, I did find a cost calculator for servings of meat, but no other general calculators. Of course, you could just do it the old fashioned way—math.

If you know of any meal cost calculators, I would love to hear about them.


Back to Basics: SCD Apple Butter

I love my 1986 copy of the book Stocking Up III: The All-New Edition of America’s Classic Preserving Guide. I appreciate the simplicity of the recipes, many of which are SCD legal, for their fundamental ingredients and back-to-basic techniques.

I adapted the Stocking Up apple cider and apple butter recipes for the final product below, which I have to say, we all thought was pretty tasty. And any recipe that we can all eat—and like—is a winner in my book.

Here is the list of ingredients for apple butter, from page 269 of the book:

3 cups of apple cider
5 pounds of apples, unpeeled and uncored, sliced thin
honey to taste
ground cinnamon, to taste
ground allspice, to taste
ground cloves, to taste

I know the list of ingredients is vague, but it does allow you to modify the recipe, which is helpful especially since personal preference for spices can vary greatly.

Although I used the list of ingredients listed above, for SCD reasons I peeled and cored the apples. Then, instead of using a large enamel pot, I cooked the apples in the crock pot.

I did not have any apple cider so I used the recipe from pages 292 through 294 of the book. I was thrilled to find that using the Vita Mix was a suitable way to make apple juice as evidenced by the picture of an older model on page 292. Since no volumes or masses are listed for how many apples to use, I just winged it until I got 3 cups of juice.

Following the instructions on page 293 and illustration on 294 I made the juice by first pureeing the peeled apples in the Vita Mix.

Then I strained the puree through a muslin bag,

reserving the juice for the apple butter recipe.

By the way, I saved the puree, which we later ate with potato latkes. However, the taste was quite concentrated and the puree probably would have been better in cake or muffins.

At this point, the five pounds of cored, peeled, and sliced apples were already cooking in the crock pot. I added the three cups of juice, a half-cup of honey, a teaspoon of cinnamon, a half-teaspoon of allspice, and a half-teaspoon of cloves. Later, after many hours of cooking, I tasted the mixture and added more spices.

Initially, I cooked the apples on high until they softened, remembering to leave the lid ajar to allow the liquid to evaporate. Before I went to bed, I set the crock pot to low (8-10 hours). This was a little risky. First thing in the morning, I thought I had ruined the whole batch because the edges were very dark. However, it tasted delicious and we enjoyed it on regular and SCD pancakes right away.
I stored the rest of it in half-pint jars in the freezer since there was not really enough to can. The Stocking Up recipe lists the yield as four half-pints, which is probably accurate if you don’t add any honey. After eating some with breakfast, we had four jars left to store.

What apple recipes are you cooking up this fall?


Apples—Take Advantage of the Season

In our neck of the woods, apples have just started coming into season. Since our family is working more toward eating in-season foods, and away from buying foods when they’re not in season, we stock up on produce whenever we can.

Whether you grow them, pick them yourself, or buy them from the orchard, local farmers market, produce stand, or store, it’s more economical and healthier to buy apples in the fall and store them.

The storage options are almost endless, but here are some ideas to get you going:

1. Buy “keeper” apples for long-term storage. We did this last year with Arkansas blacks
2. Can them
3. Freeze them; dry packing allows you to freeze them without sugar or syrup
4. Dry them
5. Make apple juice or apple cider, then freeze
6. Make applesauce, then can or freeze
7. Make apple chutney, apple jelly or apple butter
8. Make pie or pie filling (in the shape of the pie) and freeze or can
9. Make muffins, cakes, etc. to freeze.

If you have healthy, and especially SCD-friendly ideas for apple recipes, I’d love to hear them!


Slow-cooked Savings

Although the next installment of the Grocery Budget Extreme Makeover isn’t quite ready, here are a few workable ideas from to add to your grocery budget arsenal.

I’ve utilized all of these ideas at one time or another and I have to say that using a slow cooker is my personal favorite, not only because it’s cheap and healthy, but because it’s a huge time saver. I feel most productive on the days when I get dinner going in the Crock Pot as soon as breakfast is over. And don’t forget, you can even use the Crock Pot for breakfast.

What are your favorite slow cooker recipes? I would especially love to hear any you have for overnight vegetarian breakfasts.


Homemade Science

Chemistry in Action: Gloop

The following article was written by my 10-year-old daughter, Sofia.

Hello! This is Sofia. Today my sister and I made a cool experiment—Gloop! It’s made of borax, glue, and water. We mixed it up outside and spent the next half-hour playing with it. I even made a Gloop bracelet!

The Gloop is stretchy and kind of sticky. Adding more borax makes it less sticky. It was white, but I bet adding food coloring could have changed that. After you knead it for a while, it becomes very easy to mold and acts kind of like stretchy, gloopy clay. It also is considered a “non-Newtonian fluid,” which means that it has characteristics of both solids and liquids.

Eliana likes it because, quote, “It’s sticky and fun. And you put it in a bag and play with it tomorrow.” I’m not actually sure how well it keeps, but I guess we’ll find out!

If you want to have your own Gloopy fun, here’s the recipe for Gloop:

White glue

1. Mix one teaspoon borax with 1/3 cup warm water in a bowl. Stir well.
2. Mix 1/6 cup white glue with 1/6 cup water in a different bowl. Stir well.
3. Mix the borax solution into the glue. Less borax makes a stickier Gloop. When the Gloop gets thick, knead it with your hands.
4. Play with the Gloop!
5. FOR SAFETY: Do not eat the Gloop. Throw it away in the trash, not the sink, or it will clog the drain.

Enjoy your Gloop!

We got this recipe from the book “Totally Gross Chemistry” by The Creative Activity Kit.


Grocery Budget Extreme Makeover Part XIII

Level 3: Super Saver

Ask Yourself:
Do we throw away too much food?

According to foodnavigator-usa, University of Arizona anthropologist Dr. Timothy Jones’ research on food waste revealed:

“On average, households waste 14 percent of their food purchases. Fifteen percent of that included products still within their expiration date but never opened. Jones estimates an average family of four currently tosses out $590 per year, just in meat, fruits, vegetables, and grain products.”

That same study from the University of Arizona in Tucson “indicates that 40 to 50 percent of all food ready for harvest never gets eaten.”

Hear Jones’ personal suggestions for saving food—and saving money—for yourself at NPR.

Does your family waste almost $600 of food each year? You may surprise yourself by calculating the cost of food you throw away. And like before, I ask: what else could you do with $600? Make a car payment? A credit card payment or two? Start a college fund? Take a mini-vacation?

A little planning is all it takes. What will you do to waste less food—and change your family tree?


Grocery Budget Extreme Makeover Motivation

If you’re a parent who has taken Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University, you’ll remember when he talks about what you would be willing to do if your child had a curable disease that required you to raise thousands of dollars in a short period of time. Without hesitation, I bet every parent in the conference facility—or watching Dave on video—was on board. I know I was. And I still get teary every time I see that lesson.

He’s right, of course. As parents we would go to the ends of the earth to save our children medically. Why is it then that we cut off our noses to spite our faces when it comes to saving them financially? Why is it that desperation must be upon us before we are willing to “change our family tree,” as Dave says?

Of course none of this is intentional. When we’re too tired to cook and choose to go out to eat instead of fund our children’s college education—or our own retirement funds—we’re not intentionally sabotaging our family’s future. We’re simply in self-preservation mode: “I’m really tired; I’ve worked all day. I deserve a meal that I don’t have to cook—or clean up after.” Dave, of course, is much harsher than (I hope) I am and counters that with “No, you don’t!”

I won’t go that far. I know how you feel, and you do deserve some time off, someone to pamper you for a change, a meal you don’t have to cook—or clean up after. But you also deserve a life of financial stability, or Financial Peace as Dave calls it, where you and your partner don’t fight about money; where your kids can go to the movies and you don’t have to take that money out of the grocery budget; where you can take a paid-for vacation; or where you can choose to leave a J-O-B you don’t like to pursue your dream.

That’s what this series, The Grocery Budget Extreme Makeover, is about. It’s not about saving a little money on your grocery bill. It’s about changing your life. Initially, of course, it was about changing my life, my family’s life :). And it has. Making a few small changes over time have added up to a new way of life and hope for the future. As corny as that sounds, it’s true.

I don’t think my husband will mind if I tell you that before we implemented the new budget, complete with monthly budget meetings, we fought about money a lot. He had no true understanding of how much it cost to run a household, and I thought I “deserved” a few new things for the house and kids every month. Simply making a plan—together—and sticking to it has allowed us to move forward financially, and closer as a couple.

Do we still have medical school and graduate school debt? You betcha. That’s a mistake I’ll be living with for a few more years. But now, instead of feeling consumed and disemboweled by the debt (sorry for the graphic description, but that is how I felt), I feel empowered. Not only are we systematically, and successfully, paying it off, but for the first time in our lives I feel like we’re LIVING; that our future is hopeful; that we will be able to fund our retirement, our children’s educations, and maybe even vacations :).

The money I’ve saved by developing and implementing The Grocery Budget Extreme Makeover has changed our lives. The next question is: Will you let it change yours?


Grocery Budget Extreme Makeover Part XII

Level 2: Dollar Diva

Ask Yourself:

The questions that we will be asking ourselves throughout the Grocery Budget Extreme Makeover are what I call the Hard Questions. They may not be fun to answer, but they’re necessary if we are to be honest with ourselves, improve our family’s health, and save money.

Here’s the question: Do we eat out too much?

Do you know what percentage of your income you spend at restaurants or other quick stops, such as coffee shops, convenience stores, at movies or sporting events, or at snack machines, etc.?

Think there’s not much difference in the cost of eating at home versus eating out? Check out The High Cost of Eating Out and The Cost of Eating Out vs. Making Meals.

Between you and I, now that I rarely eat out (for budget and health reasons), when I do, the food is never as good as I remember. Honestly. I don’t miss it like I thought I would. What I do miss is someone else cleaning up the kitchen!


Grocery Budget Extreme Makeover Part XI

Level 2: Dollar Diva

Shop Wisely

Decrease the number of trips you make to the store—any store. This will decrease your exposure to “wants” thereby decreasing impulse purchases. Really, it works! Not to mention, it is good for the environment. Think about how many ways this reduces your carbon footprint. It also decreases wear and tear on your vehicle, and how much you spend on gas. Calculate how much cutting out two or three extra trips saves you in gasoline expenses.

To make this calculation, multiply the price per gallon of gas by the number of miles driven roundtrip. Then divide that answer by the miles per gallon your vehicle gets. Or check out this online fuel-cost calculator that does the work for you, or this road trip calculator for long trips between specific cities.

For instance, gas at $3.50 per gallon multiplied by 30 miles roundtrip, and then divided by 20 mpg. fuel efficiency equals $5.25 per trip. That may not seem like much, but how many trips do you make in a month? And what could you purchase, pay down, or even earn through investment, instead? Even if you saved—and invested—only that $21 per month at 8% for 25 years, you’d have almost $20,000. Don’t believe me? See how much you can earn.

Here’s where to calculate how much more quickly you could pay off your car. And here is my favorite calculator site for mortgage, credit card, student loan, and other financial decisions.

Remember, the above example takes into account only the savings generated by decreasing your gasoline costs. Think about how much less money you probably spend on impulse purchases at the store, or food to eat while you’re out shopping.

How, specifically, could you improve your financial situation by decreasing the number of shopping trips per month? Take the challenge and let me know.


Homemade Helpers: Baking Powder

Hello, my fellow frugal friends. The last time I tried to buy baking powder at the local grocery store, they were only selling a brand with sodium aluminum sulfate in it. So, when I needed some earlier this week I decided to do some research and found a few different, but similar, recipes for making it on the cheap at home! I thought you might appreciate the do-it-yourself nature.

According to the SmittenKitchen:

To make your own baking powder–some say with fewer metallic undertones than the commercial stuff–mix one part baking soda to one part cornstarch and two parts cream of tartar.

Baking powder recipe from

Baking powder recipe from

According to Wikipedia, to enhance leavening without baking powder in recipes like those of the SCD (Specific Carbohydrate Diet):
Baking powder is generally just baking soda mixed with an acid, and a number of kitchen acids may be mixed with baking soda to simulate commercial blends of baking powder. Vinegar (dilute ethanoic acid), especially white vinegar, is also a common acidifier in baking; for example, many heirloom chocolate cake recipes call for a tablespoon or two of vinegar. Where a recipe already uses buttermilk or yogurt, baking soda can be used without cream of tartar (or with less). Alternatively, lemon juice can be substituted for some of the liquid in the recipe, to provide the required acidity to activate the baking soda.

On Monday, I successfully used the baking powder recipe from to make these tasty muffins (not SCD), and the baking soda/yogurt combination to make the SCD “Mom’s Blueberry Muffins” recipe from Recipes for the Specific Carbohydrate Diet.

If you decide to try it, I'd love to know how this homemade baking powder recipe works for you.


Grocery Budget Extreme Makeover Part X

Level 2: Dollar Diva

Challenge Yourself

Look at the three most expensive items on your grocery receipt and find less expensive alternatives. Click here and here to see how others answer the question, “What’s your most expensive grocery item?”

Every month I reevaluate all of my grocery expenditures and search for lower cost alternatives. Here are a few items where I have found less expensive options.

For me, the most costly items are specialty foods for my younger daughter who is on the SCD (Specific Carbohydrate Diet). Once I finally learned to cook some simple meats for her (twenty three years of being a vegetarian meant my meat cooking skills were nil), I replaced the Applegate Farms hot dogs, which were $7.99 per pack at the only store that carried them, with local organic meats from the farmer’s market for between $3.50 and $6.00 per pound. In a pinch, when I couldn’t find local, organic meat—or couldn’t stomach the cost at Whole Foods—I did buy grocery store chicken, but those of you with kids on the SCD know how potentially dangerous that can be given the possible additives.

I also stopped buying cheese, another food of which we eat a lot, at the grocery store. Now, I buy it in five-pound blocks at the restaurant supply store, where they slice it for free. This means that I can make provolone taco shells, SCD cheese “crackers,” toppings for spaghetti squash, and so on without feeling guilty at the cost of the small packages. Earlier this month I paid $2.59 per pound for provolone, and $2.99 per pound for Swiss purchased this way. Another additional benefit is that they slice it extra thin, which extends the number of servings, and makes it easier to melt when we use it as toppings for pizza, etc. Just in case you’re wondering, when I get it home from the store, I separate it into four or five quart-sized freezer bags and store it in the freezer until we need it.

Convenience foods, specialty items, meat/seafood, dairy, and out-of-season produce are often the most expensive purchases for American consumers. How about you? What are your three most expensive food items?


Grocery Budget Extreme Makeover Part IX

Level 2: Dollar Diva

Challenge Yourself

Set a Goal. After you calculate how much you typically spend each pay period for groceries (not including toiletries or other non-food items), set a goal to decrease the amount you spend by at least 10% the first month. For instance, if you spend $500, you would set a goal of spending no more than $450. (30 seconds to set the goal if you’ve been keeping track of what you spend)

After I wrote this post I decided to google “grocery goal,” and I found a few people who have successfully decreased their grocery budgets by setting new goals, just like we talked about, and a few who talk about the nitty gritty of their personal process.

I’d love to hear about your personal grocery budget goals and any successes or questions you’d like to share.


Grocery Budget Extreme Makeover Part VIII

Level 2: Dollar Diva

Be Prepared
After planning your meals and preparing your grocery list, set a price cap for each item based on the in-season sale cost and vow not to pay more than that. Make sure to have contingency plans so that if an item costs over your limit, you can substitute a different item, or use a different recipe. (15 minutes)

For example, if you planned to serve peach pie, but peaches are not in season and are over your price cap, but strawberries are in season and the cheapest they’ll be all year, serve strawberry shortcake instead. This would also be a great time to stock up on strawberries for the freezer, or to make jam, etc.

For an interactive map of what’s in season where you live click here, or here for a more general list. And this site even includes a list of in-season meats and seafoods.


Grocery Budget Extreme Makeover Part VII

Level 2: Dollar Diva

Add to Your System

Menu for a month:

This is much easier than it sounds and takes less time every time you do it. First, locate or make, by hand or computer, a blank calendar or meal planner that has plenty of room for writing. Second, grab your family’s calendar for the month and mark on the blank calendar any dates when you won’t be eating at home. Third, note on what dates meals need to be available quickly because your kids have practice, you have a meeting, you know you will be working extra hours, etc.

Easy: Make one week’s menu, then repeat it every week (15-30 minutes)
Easier: Start by planning only dinners (15 minutes)
Easiest: After every meal you eat this month, write down the menu items on a blank calendar for next month on the same date. (1-3 minutes per day)

Check your pantry, fridge, and freezer for the items you will need to prepare the meals you have listed. Add any needed items to your grocery list now. (15 minutes)

This trick alone has saved me the most money. So, if you want a lot of bang for your buck start planning your meals and let me know what happens. If you’re already a meal planner, I’d love to hear how it has affected your budget.


About LivingLaVidaMama

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Formerly, I've worked in publishing and been a medical student. Currently, I'm a freelance writer and copy editor, and full-time mom with two exceptional daughters. I have two blogs: LivingLaVidaMama, which focuses on intentional frugality as well as the Specific Carbohydrate Diet that has dramatically improved my younger daughter's autistic-like symptoms; and MadForWriting, which chronicles the adventures of a mother and daughter who love to write. Contact me at